Syllabi & Bibliographies

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Tu/Th 2:40-3:55 622 Dodge Hall


Prof. Steven Feld

Office: 615 Dodge Hall

Office phone: 212-854-5837

email: sf525@columbia.edu OR wafeki@aol.com


General Course description

Musics of Oceania: selected case studies of music and society in Australia and the islands of Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia. Case studies of indigenous styles might include ritual musics of Aboriginal Australia, (vocal musics with didjeridoo and clapstick); everyday and ceremonial musics of the New Guinea highlands (vocal and instrumental); and the ensemble panpipe music of the Solomon Islands, the best-known case of indigenous instrumental polyphony in the Pacific. Case studies of contemporary popular styles might include unique varieties of Polynesian and Melanesian string band and rock, Aboriginal Australian country and rock, and Polynesian (Hawaiian, Samoan, Tongan, Maori) reggae and hip hop. Emphasis on the complex location of “traditional” musics in the local and global modernities of Pacific societies.


Course requirements and grading formula

1. Take home midterm (30%), take home final (30%), research/review paper


2. Regular class attendance and participation (10%).


This semester the course will consist of four cases studies in Oceanic musics. For the first half of the term we will concentrate on indigenous instrumental and vocal musics of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and for the second half of the term we will concentrate on popular stringband, country, and rock musics of Papua New Guinea and Aboriginal Australia.



Introduction (1 week)--Jan. 21 & 23

The Pacific as a Cultural-Historical-Musical Region


The lectures, recordings, and video clips will first survey the cultural and historical contexts of music in the Pacific, and the distinctive mix of indigenous traditional and contemporary indigenized popular music genres in the region.



Kaeppler, Adrienne, et.al.

1998 Encounters with “the Other,” Encounters with “Ourselves:” Musical Migrations, pp. 1-69; Popular Music, pp. 126-172, in Adrienne Kaeppler and Jacob Love, eds., Australia and the Pacific Islands. NY: Garland. (Reference section of Music Library)




Part I (three weeks)--Jan. 28 & 30, Feb. 4 & 6, Feb. 11 & 13

‘Are’Are Panpipe Music of Malaita, Solomon Islands


The invention of polyphony in Melanesia is strongly tied to panpipe music. The best-known case study of both panpipe manufacture and the development of multiple styles of polyphonic forms (including solo) is the ceremonial music of the ‘Are’Are people of Malaita in the Solomon Islands, whose instrumental music was extensively documented in articles, recordings, and videos by Hugo Zemp. We will concentrate on the ‘Are’Are materials, but also talk about the We will also locate Solomons music in the history of popular bamboo band music in the Solomons since the 1930s, and in two recent global media stories. The first is the sound of “Melanesian Choirs” used in the soundtrack of the Hollywood film “The Thin Red Line.” The second concerns a Zemp recording from North Malaita, a Baegu lullaby “Rorogwela” sung by Afunakwa, sampled (without license) in 1992 by the Belgian group Deep Forest. The result became the hit song “Sweet Lullaby” that was featured on the Deep Forest Record (more than three million sold), and later used as advertising background music for a Neutrogena TV commercial. 



Zemp, Hugo

1978 ‘Are’Are Classification of Musical Types and Instruments. Ethnomusicology 22(1):37-67.

1979 Aspects of ‘Are’Are Musical Theory. Ethnomusicology 23(1):6-48.

1979/1993 ‘Are’Are Music, pts. 1- 2-3 (2 videos). CNRS/SEM.

1994  ‘Are’Are Panpipe Ensembles (2CD/booklet). Le Chant du Monde.

1995 ‘Are’Are Intimate and Ritual Music (CD/booklet). Le Chant du Monde.


(Other books, articles, and LPs by Zemp are only available in French editions; copies will be made available to you if you read French and wish to pursue more about the ‘Are’Are and other peoples of Malaita, Solomon Islands.)


Feld S.

2000 A Sweet Lullaby for World Music. Public Culture 12(1): 145-172.

Reprinted in Arjun Appadurai, ed, Globalization. Duke University Press, 2002.



Part II (4 weeks): Feb. 18 & 20, Feb. 25 & 27, Mar. 4 & 6, Mar. 11 & 13

The Bosavi People of Papua New Guinea


Indigenous New Guinea (Melanesia) music culture through the lens of a society in the Papua New Guinea highlands studied by the instructor for the last 25 years. The emphasis will be on the ethnography of music and the anthropology of sound, including symbolism, style, and key Melanesian music issues  like gender, cosmology, poetics, and “song maps”. We will survety the history of Bosavi musics, including the new guitar music of the 1990s.



Feld, Steven 1990, Sound and Sentiment, U. Pennsylvania Press (2nd edition).

Feld, Steven, 1991, Sound as a symbolic system: the Kaluli drum  in David Howes, ed.

The Varieties of Sensory Experience: a Sourcebook in the Anthropology of the Senses. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 79-99.

Feld, Steven, 1994, Aesthetics as Iconicity of Style, in C. Keil and S. Feld, Music Grooves, University of Chicago Press, pp. 109-150.

Feld, Steven, 1996, Waterfalls of Song, in S. Feld and K. Basso, eds., Senses of Place, SAR Press, pp. 91-135.

Feld, Steven, 2001, Bosavi: Rainforest Music from Papua New Guinea (3CD/booklet). Smithsonian Folkways.

Feld, Steven, 1991 Voices of the Rainforest. CD/booklet, Rykodisc.






Part III (3 weeks): Mar. 25 & 27, Ap. 1 & 3, Ap. 8 & 10

Melanesian Stringband: Polynesian Roots and Global Pop Crossovers


In the late 1980s Australian pop band Not Drowning, Waving teamed up with George Telek and musicians from Papua New Guinea to create the album Tabaran. It was hailed by critics as the Pacific equivalent of Graceland and opened up a new era of stringband, pop, and rock crossovers in the region. We will study the background to the New Guinea string band styles (which date from World War II introduction of guitars to PNG), their relation to Hawaiian and pan-Pacific pop string bands, and the distinct forms of guitar music that have emerged in Papua New Guinea.  



Hayward, Philip

1998    Music at the Borders: Not Drowning, Waving and their engagement with

Papua New Guinean Cultures (1986-1996). John Libbey Publishers.



Part IV (3 weeks): Ap. 15 & 17, Ap. 22 & 24, Ap. 29 & May 1

Australian Aboriginal Country and Rock


Country music stands to Aboriginal Australians as blues does to African Americans, as a deep symbol of identity and pride, of pain and hope. But there is a difference. Aboriginal Australians didn’t invent country music. It came to them from Anglo Australians, from radio and records. How then has country music come to be such a deep symbol of contemporary Aboriginal identities? And how is this identity work complementary to the more politicized rock music of the last two generations of Aboriginal youth, and their white Australian followers?



Walker, Clinton

2000    Buried Country: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music. Pluto Press (with video and double CD).


Castles, John

1998  Tjungaringanyi: Aboriginal Rock, 1971-1991, pp. 11-25 in Philip Hayward, ed., Sound Alliances: Indigenous peoples, Cultural politics, and popular music in the Pacific, London: Cassell.


Hayward, Philip, Karl Neuenfeldt, Lisa Nicol

1998  Access to the mainstream: the case of Yothu Yindi, (4 articles), pp. 175-208 in Philip Hayward, ed., Sound Alliances: Indigenous peoples, Cultural politics, and popular music in the Pacific, London: Cassell.


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